SANTIAGO, Chile – President Michelle Bachelet has announced a plan to buy and return disputed ancestral lands to Chile's indigenous communities as part of a strategy to better incorporate them into the country's political process and economic development.
Chile's indigenous peoples, which include the Mapuche, Aymara and Diaguita, have an underweight representation in Congress and often face a harsh economic reality in what is otherwise one of Latin America's wealthiest countries. Years of conflict over land claims have increasingly flared into violence between the Mapuche, the largest indigenous group, and local farmers, forestry companies and police, putting pressure on the government to act.
"It has been nearly 25 years since we got back our democracy," Bachelet said at the presidential palace in Santiago, flanked by representatives of indigenous communities. "It is time to have the courage to take new steps with a view not to the short-term, but rather the (long-term) development that has been so difficult to obtain for our indigenous sisters and brothers."
Her plan includes giving the communities greater representation in Congress, although she didn't give details of how it would work, and the creation of an institutional framework tasked with overseeing indigenous matters.